As the third wave of COVID-19 swept through, Malaysia again imposed a nationwide lockdown in May this year. Between July and August, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped from 1,000 to 10,000, kept setting new records. The death toll has skyrocketed, and almost everyone knows someone who has been diagnosed.
In early July, I attended an informal meeting convened by Dr. Lin Qing Xiang of the Hospital Ministry Resources to share the situation of our response to the pandemic. At that time, Dr Lin proposed a scheme to break the chain of infection by setting up community safe houses. Soon after this meeting, we were no longer hearing confirmed cases of someone friends, but directly from our friends and family.
Not long after that, I received news of outbreaks of infection in drug rehabilitation centres, nursing homes and seminaries. As the quarantine centres were full, fellow workers were also asked by friends whether there was a safe place to quarantine.
Seeing the severeness of pandemic and in order to prevent and fight the pandemic, 7979 co-workers promoted a disaster plan: “7979 Love. Quarantine” after much inquiries and preparations. The church will use vacant church’s building or members' properties to set up community safe quarantine houses to host close contacts whose home environment do not allow safe quarantine, so as to break the chain of infection in families and communities and reduce the burden on the medical system. The service includes providing three meals, counselling, soul care and other services.
This is a relatively high-risk program because close contacts that hosted may have been infected. However, it is better to test positive in a safe quarantine house than to confirm the diagnosis at home. Especially for the B40 group of low-income households, the home space is often insufficient; or there are high-risk groups in the home, which may lead to the simultaneous infection of many people in the home because of the inability to take preventive measures. Quarantine will cause a loss of income, which will greatly affect people's lives. In addition, the cost of testing and other expenses will only increase people's mental stress.
Safety first, full SOP
The church converted Sunday School classrooms into safe quarantine rooms
After the sharing of many plans, we are grateful to Malaysian Family Keepers for providing soul supporting and caring services, as well as various churches for setting up community safe quarantine houses. As of October, a total of 18 churches have set up 21 community safe quarantine houses, with 43 rooms in service, serving more than 58 people, in Alor Setar, Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai, Ipoh, Klang Valley, Malacca, Yong Peng, Kuantan, Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. This figure may not be worth mentioning, but what can’t be seen is it is connected to the precious life of each family, which is priceless.
What is more valuable is the willingness of the church and volunteers in giving. In their respective communities, they were willing to host people in need, in addition to arranging the living environment, providing daily meals and daily necessities, making regular phone calls to give soul care, etc… they also have to clean and disinfect the entire facility when they checked out. We are especially grateful to those who offer their vacant property for churches to use as quarantine houses immediately after they heard about our project. At the same time, doctors, individuals who are in disinfection business, counsellors, volunteers from charity organizations, etc., stood out to offered their services. A warm-hearted brother donated 43 unit of oxygen concentrators of 5L and accessories, 600 unit of pulse oximeter, 10,000 pieces of masks and 1,000 pieces of PPE, most of which were sent to Sabah, where the medical system was relatively poor, in order to support the local church. At present, oxygen concentrators had distributed to Kota Kinabalu Sabah, Sandakan, Seremban, Kuantan, Bukit Mertajam, Kedah and Kuala Lumpur.
“We love because God first loved us.” Neither trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, danger nor sword, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A Cup of Cold Water Which is Not Ready Yet 7979 Let Loves Move Around . Word / Chua Sing Gee
“This time, will it be my turn?” Yu Ting (pseudonym) wondering worriedly as she was waited alone at the quarantine hotel. Yesterday, when she learned that she had close contact with diagnosed patient, she was feeling scared but she still remained calm. She called her parent after she did her PCR test which was tested negative, she arranged to be quarantined in a hotel. She had been staying in her friend’s house for sometimes, but with this latest incident, it’ll be better for her not to return to the house, she couldn’t quarantine at her own house too, as she has an aging father at home. Even though she was tested negative, but what if she did bring the virus home?
Entering into second day of quarantine, she received a phone call from her uncle, who is the chairman of BCCM Menggatal (C). Just recently, the church decided to heed the call of Basel Church Chinese section in setting up “Basel · Love · Safe Quarantine House” project. Although, it was not formally open yet, nevertheless, the church still immediately allowed Yu Ting to quarantine at the premise, because the hotel that Yu Ting stayed was located at suburbs, which was not too safe for a young lady to stay.
So, after five days of quarantine, Yu Ting was arranged to be quarantined at the church’s quarantine house.
A few days ago, BCCM Menggatal (C) had a meeting and decided to set up a quarantine house, and immediately began to work on it. When Yu Ting’s uncle received a call from Yu Ting, the quarantine house was still in progress. After understanding her situation, he discussed the matter with his church for Yu Ting to stay at the quarantine house.
Even though, the quarantine house was still under preparation, but thankfully, the one that was set up as quarantine house was the parsonage, which already has bedrooms and basic facilities. After some basic toiletries were added in, Yu Ting’s uncle fetched her to stay at the quarantine house.
So, this was what happened, when the quarantine house set up by Sabah Basel Church was still not ready, they already took in one occupant, and the only occupant at that time.
The beginning of establishment of quarantine house
The number of confirmed cases in Sabah still remain high, the virus was like a wind blowing into every house, and more and more people were diagnosed.
When Sabah Basel Church was puzzling don’t know what to do, they received a call from HISTEAM 7979 encouraged their church to attend a vision sharing meeting of “7979 Love Quarantine” project. Responses from churches were very fast, some churches instantly agreed to participate in this project, and set off to work on establishing quarantine house in their respective area immediately. These areas were Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran and Sandakan, 3 areas with 11 quarantine rooms. Among these were Sunday School rooms that had been vacant for long time, they turned it into 5 isolated quarantine rooms; there were also vacant shop lots that being turned into quarantine house. Some churches also opened up their parsonages to host those who needed to be quarantined.
The Chief Person in Charge, Rev Rosemary Chong shared: “It was the church’s deacons who really made the decision. They were willing to open up the vacant buildings that enable the establishment of quarantine house.” The fulfilment of a ministry depends not only on physical equipment, but also on people willing to serve together. When the church decided to set up quarantine house, they split 8 individuals into 2 teams. One team was the executing team which in charge of all labour works regarding quarantine house, the other group was the management team, they were in charge of all administration matters regarding quarantine house, such as finance. Whether it is purchasing, cleaning, disinfection and meals, we did it together and contribute our strength. Just like the body of Christ, everyone does their part to accomplish God’s work. Quarantine houses, too, cannot be built by one person alone, but when we worked together, in just 3 days, 9 quarantine rooms were set up. Yu Ting said: “I’m very thankful to the church for they had helped me when I’m in difficulty.” When she realised that she needed to be quarantine, she was very scared, knowing that there were people around her who had been diagnosed, she was worried that she might had contracted the virus. “Aside from fear, the first thing that came to my mind was, no matter what the situation is, I must self-quarantine at the soonest possible, I don’t want my family to be contracted.” Initially she was assigned to a hotel at suburb area, later on she moved to the church’s quarantine house. “I was so happy; I think that it is safer to stay at the church.” When she was at the church, she received many caring phone calls from church brothers and sisters. So coincident, her birthday fell on those few days of quarantine, so the church gave her a birthday cake to celebrate.
Facilities in quarantine house
The birthday cake the church given to Yu Ting
Delicacies during quarantine
A cup of cold water which is not ready yet?
Sabah Basel Church spent much efforts to set up quarantine houses, but God miraculously brought a little girl in need of quarantine into their midst before they were ready. If they had turn down the young lady with the excuse of “We are still not ready.” Will they miss the reward of serving this little one? The ministry that God wants us to do, many times it started before we are even ready. When the church finally completed everything, surprisingly God did not send anyone else *. Do you think that it is a waste? I don’t think so, I believe that God’s plan is always the best, just like the Bible’s verse, God does remember and will rewards those who had extended assistance to this little one.
In the future, this quarantine house project will eventually come to an end. However, there are still various needs in the community, the church still has to be ready to go beyond the four walls into the community, and give every little one a cup of cold water.
(*Later in October, after our interview, the church took in another 3 individuals.)
A Hope and Assistance 7979 Let’s Love Move . Word / CSG
“Thank you very much! When my child was diagnosed with COVID–19, even my family ignored us, only you and your friends were willing to take us in.” Ai Ying (pseudonym) shared with crying tone in the phone to our team leader. Later, our team leader shared with us the content of their conversation. Bukit Mertajam Baptist Church, HISTEAM 7979 Care Station’s volunteer Sis. Mei Foong felt relieved and comforted by what she heard, once again she managed to help another family.
Ai Ying and her family of seven stay in a small house. When her youngest son was unfortunately diagnosed with COVID – 19, the family became high-risk close contacts. Therefore, the landlord stopped renting to them and told them to leave immediately. Their relatives were also reluctant to deal with them for fear of getting in trouble.
Ai Ying, who has nowhere to go, felt very helpless and in despair, she sat in her car all by herself and cried.
As it happened, some brothers and sisters in our church cell group know Ai Ying, they decided to extend assistance to her when they came to know of her situation. In this way, while her youngest son who had diagnosed with COVID – 19 was sent to the government quarantine centre; Ai Ying’s family stayed in the church quarantine house under the arrangement of the church. All of a sudden, Ai Ying's family went from being displaced to finding a place to stay, finally able to go through quarantine period with peace of mind.
At the same time, after the church received Ai Ying and her family into the quarantine house, the CG leader also began to pray together with Ai Ying for her house renting issue. Ai Ying also actively discussed with her the landlord, hoping that he would rent the house to them again. One day, when the CG leader met Ai Ying's landlord, she also talked with the landlord about renting the house. Finally, the landlord agreed to rent the house to Ai Ying’s family again.
During the quarantine period, the church often invited Ai Ying and her family to participate in church worships or cell group meetings, which made them felt the genuine care of church brothers and sisters. “In the past, I had been exposed to the Gospel, although I have not accepted Christ, but now I feel that only Christian will help me unconditionally, regardless of the cost.” Ai Ying said at last.
Apart from Ai Ying's family, there were many disadvantaged and poor families in Penang Bukit Mertajam’s community who also face various difficulties. Because of the pandemic, their lives became worse than ever, and some have even lost their jobs, making life quite difficult. When the pandemic worsened, they, who are at grassroots level have no choice but to go out to work in order to make a living. Compare with those who works from home, they are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and belong to the high-risk group.
This September, the church started “7979, Love Quarantine House” ministry, set up 6 quarantine rooms in 3 houses. Since the establishment of quarantine house, the church had hosted 22 occupants*, most of them were church’s brothers and sisters. Majority of those church members were aid recipients who had been benefited from Church programs, they were those disadvantaged and poor families who were attending church worship after they accepted Christ. Their living environment were often small dwellings, with large families living together. If a family member was unfortunately diagnosed, it would be difficult to quarantine at home. When the quarantine houses were established, church brothers and sisters were given priority to stay in the quarantine house.
Facilities in quarantine house
Besides this, operating a quarantine house need a lot of manpower, cleaning and sanitizing alone already required a lot of manpower. For this matter, the church hired some people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Although the wages were not high, but they can at least have a job and make a living. Not only that, the church also bought a lot of pandemic prevention supplies, such as mask and oximeter. If anyone needs supplies, the church will give them away free of charge in response to the needs of the pandemic.
Some people could get nervous and scare whenever they heard the word “quarantine”. The church came out with the idea of using “food delicacy” to tackle this issue. Every day, the church’s kitchen team would prepare delicious meals, although it may not be sumptuous, yet this well thought and carefully prepared food could ease some of the anxiety during quarantine. Meanwhile, the church also arranged two groups of counsellors to minister to these occupants.
“Under privilege poor community need special attention and care. We are very thankful for the emergence of quarantine house ministry, it allows people who needed quarantine to have a safe place for quarantine.” Sis. Ruo Qi shared, that she herself was also one of the residents in quarantine house who came into contact with a diagnosed patient because of her ministry. She was very grateful for the church started the quarantine house ministry, because the quarantine house not only allows people who need quarantine to have a proper place to go, but also let people experience God’s love during quarantine.
Later on, Pr. Lily who also happened to stay in the church’s quarantine house before, shared: “If we are believers of Christ, isn’t it good that we can spend more time with God during quarantine? This is another form of blessing.” She believed the establishment of quarantine house gave hope and assistance to those who don’t have space for quarantine.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; …. Psalms 91:4
(*The total number of occupants shown was up till our interview in October)
Pandemic causes many social difficulties; everyone maintains relationship in distance. Friends who live in same neighbourhood often opt out for any direct contact in order to avoid spreading of COVID-19. During pandemic, everyone misses and looking forward to social gatherings of family members and friends. We can never imagine that simple social gathering in the past, can now be so difficult and valuable.
During pandemic, 7979 companionship class also faces various limitations and difficulties. Without physical classes, it is difficult for teachers to fully grasp the condition of the students. Gradually, everyone became stranger. Therefore, 6 churches started to convert their physical companionship class to online version, hoping that while the students will not be left out in their studies, the teachers can also maintain close relationship with their students. They are Abundant Grace Assembly Of God, Puchong Christian Alliance Centre, Seremban Gospel Chapel (Chinese), Full Gospel Mission Centre Jelebu, Elim Gospel Hall Ipoh (Chinese Assembly) and Southern Ipoh Presbyterian Church. Although in the process of setting up, the teachers faced many tough challenges and difficulties, but everything was worthwhile when they saw the reassuring rainbows after the rain. “Some students who used to be bad in Math, now they have improved so much that they can guide others.” Students shared this proudly with smile on their faces. Another student added on shyly: “Teachers … care for me just like a mother”. The way she shared it with me just like sharing a long kept secret.
During operation, most companionship classes’teachers faced similar difficulties, that is everyone is not familiar with operating the require electronic devices. However, in order to enable companionship class children to continue to grow in their studies and spiritual health, the teachers bravely face the toughest challenges themselves. Teacher Mary of Puchong Christian Alliance Centre shared: “Honestly speaking, I’m a computer idiot, yet I’m very thankful that a sister is willing to teach me, only after her coaching, I forced myself to start online companionship class. I’m also very thankful, that during this pandemic I have gained some new skills, and use it to teach the students.” We saw it ourselves these teachers are not willing to let pandemic stop them from accompanying the children, instead they want the children to realize that the teachers’ love for them will not stop even during pandemic.
7979 online companionship class tutorial time
The purpose of activating online companionship class is also because we want to create an opportunity for the students to build a strong foundation, and to refresh what they had learned. After sometime of attending online companionship class, the teachers felt so happy and relieved to see the students’ improvement in their grades. This is the biggest comfort to the teachers. After paying much effort in cultivating their spiritual lives, the teachers begin to see that they do keep the teaching of the Word in their heart. Whenever anyone became ill, they would sincerely pray for them, care and comfort each other. A student shared: “When you get close with God, then God will be closed to you.” It is just like a mustard seed sprout in a child’s heart, one simple teaching, very truthful and indispensable. It becomes the lamp which lights out their path, whenever they face troubles in their lives, they can apply these truths in their lives and make the right decision.
7979 online companionship class teachers and students
Compare with physical class, students are bolder and more interactive during online class. Maybe, it is because of the absent of crowd attention, the students can express themselves comfortably. In the past, during physical class, the students are shy to speak out, they worried that their answer might be wrong. Now, with this online class, the students’ confident boost up, and expressive skills improve too. They will sign in earlier for the online class just for the purpose of chatting with teachers of their daily lives or ask teachers on their school assignment. Through this online class, the teachers and students’ rapport becomes deeper. Online companionship class also helps the student in terms of time management, in order to be punctual for online class, some students will wait idly before the computer for the teachers to get online. We can imagine how lonely are the students during pandemic that they are so looking forward to meet up with the teachers and students in companionship class.
The teachers are very grateful for they are able to teach the children even during pandemic. Even though, pandemic creates distance between one another, yet because of love, it brings people heart together as well. The teachers hope that the teaching team can be expanded, so that more students can be blessed by companionship class ministry. At the same time, reaching out to more primary schools through companionship class, then the community will be blessed – an act of love that can be felt by everyone.
As 2021 is coming to an end, Children are still being trapped at home due to MCO restrictions. It’s like living on an icy and remote island, not seeing anyone.There, they only see the high walls, the clocks are ticking very slowly, fans are flying aimlessly in the air…… Thankfully, 7979 Online Companionship Class teachers have brought much cheers to the children during these gloomy days. The sincere care of the teachers warmed the hearts of the children making their online learning delightful! Although the pandemic has limited the social interaction between the teachers and students, but it could not stop them from using new and more creative ways to socialise. Because of Love, they persevered despite hardships! Because of love, the companionship class remain committed to serve the children!
HOST WITH LOVE · NO OBSTACLES Together We Go & Save · Written by Rev. Andrew Wong
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers …” (Heb. 13:1-2)
In the month of August, Malaysia’s COVID-19 confirmed cases have been increasing steadily, people around us started to get infected too, cries of confirmed COVID-19 family members who needed to be quarantine becoming louder and closer too. By the moving of God, HISTEAM responded by setting up safe quarantine house, foremost we learned how to transform our staff’s quarters into a safe quarantine facility. Meanwhile, we also fasten our pace in sharing Quarantine House’s vision and execution program with Chinese speaking churches. In general, the responds we received from pastors and leaders who attended our Quarantine House Briefing could be either agree with it or totally disagree. Nevertheless, we are very thankful for our Lord’s leading, throughout Malaysia there are 18 churches working together with us, in setting up 21 quarantine houses to host individuals of group B close contact group. We really appreciate our overseas mentor Rev. James Xia for his trust and love to us by setting aside a sum of money from Taiwan CCRA into our Quarantine House startup fund, this is indeed a big encouragement to our team to walk the extra mile. As I looked back at our Quarantine House program, I had never expected that for the past 3 months, churches all over Malaysia had hosted 58 individuals (statistic till end of October). Individuals stayed at our quarantine house came from all walks of life, we gave priority to people of B40 group or financially disadvantage. Thank God that we have the privilege to host friends from other races, foreign workers and ex-drug addicts.
Actually we were just boldly depended on God when we opened up and prepared our vacant premises to take in neighbours who needed a temporary and safe quarantine space. During quarantine period, we provide them with food, company, care and prayers. From the sharing of brothers and sisters who involved in this quarantine house ministry, they found that their faith and boldness has increased in this pandemic as they care for and host quarantine individuals. In the process of hosting, God reminded me that ministry of hosting is an unavoidable ministry that we must adopt in this end time period. This time it was due to a pandemic, that a space was needed to host our neighbours, in the future it could be a natural disaster, war or even persecution that will cause diaspora of refugees. Actually, what we need to prepare is really not a physical space but the space in God’s children hearts, i.e. a heart that willing to host. When time comes, we will either be the one who take in someone or the one who desire to be taken care of. Ungodly lifestyles will be more common during end time, people hearts are becoming more indifferent too, if the church does not wish to be judge by God’s righteousness like lukewarm Laodicea Church, or Ephesian Church that lost their first love, than we end up with only one choice that is to depend on Holy Spirit and turn our indifferent into love, until the unbelievers around us can experience the unforsaken love of our God. Yes!This is the love in Christ Jesus that leap over life, death, time and geographical limitation. Where there is love, then there will not be obstacles.